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Ceremonies held to honor Christmas Eve ambush victims
Webster, N.Y. - Ceremonies held Tuesday on Lake Road in Webster to honor those lost in the Christmas Eve ambush began around the same moment of the attack a year ago. The timing was important: Not just to honor the fallen, but also to allow first responders to be home with their families that night, something they could not do last Christmas Eve. They gathered by the hundreds this morning - in the snow.
The scene was such a contrast to a year ago.
No gun shots.
No calls for help.
Tuesday morning, there were moments of silence, when all you could hear was waves from the lake crashing on the shore.
Silence that was needed a year after 911 dispatchers continued helping over busy radio frequencies while realizing one of their own, Tomasz Kaczowka, had been killed.
John Merklinger, head of the 911 Center told us, "One of our fire dispatchers actually knew very early on, suspected that one of his co-workers was a victim."
Tuesday was needed.
"I think people are trying to move on with life and hopefully this will provide some of that chance today," Merklinger said.
It hasn't been easy for the West Webster Fire Department either.
Ken Smith, President of the West Webster Volunteer Firemen's Association explained, "The community has just shown so much support and everybody wants to do a fundraiser or a memorial event or things like that and we appreciate everybody's concern and support, but every time we attend one of those we are forced to relive the day and it's been tough for us to be able to move because we are constantly reminded of it."
They did promise to constantly support the families of the fallen firefighters. That pledge was repeated several times today as the men were celebrated in an almost-five-minute sermon at the scene by West Webster Fire Department Chaplin Hugh Knight.
Knight told the crowd that the Tuesday morning gathering was to remember them and to remind surviving first responders how important their service and sacrifice is.
The crowd was made up of members of the West Webster Police Department, the 911 Center, the West Webster Fire Department and any other first responder who responded to the scene a year ago.
And when it was all over, and the West Webster Honor Guard took over the scene for the next few hours with a salute, there was a moment to take in the morning, and to take in the last year.
Al Sienkiewicz, West Webster Fire Department reflected, "This is almost more real now than it was a year ago because... when the event occurred there was so much that had to be done so quickly quite frankly it was overwhelming."